/ Europe Issued on: 13/07/2022 – 06:47
Police stand in front of fans prior to the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. © Thomas Coex, AFP A French Senate enquiry into chaotic scenes at the Champions League final in May in Paris concluded Wednesday the problems were caused by a “string of dysfunctions” in the organisation, rather than Liverpool supporters as claimed by the government.
“These dysfunctions were at every level, not only during the implementation (during the game) but also during preparations in advance,” the co-chair of the enquiry Laurent Lafon told reporters at a press conference.
The “dysfunctions” included a failure to anticipate how supporters would arrive at the stadium due to a transport strike, inadequate instructions and the use of police checkpoints that caused pressure points on the way to the game.
The fact-finding mission led by two senators has heard from witnesses since the Liverpool-Real Madrid game on May 28 which was marred by a delayed kick-off, crushes, teargas and street crime.
The enquiry discounted the issue of fake tickets, the late arrival of supporters at the stadium, or the presence of thousands of fans without tickets as the main causes.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had suggested all of these as factors to explain the fiasco, which was a national embarrassment for France.
“It’s not the number of people around the stadium that is the cause of these dysfunctions,” Lafon added.
Many Liverpool supporters struggled to travel to the stadium because of a transport strike, then found themselves in bottlenecks and crushes at the stadium entry gates, where police fired tear gas to move them back.
Disabled Liverpool fans testified to the Senate commission that officers had even sprayed people in wheelchairs.
After the game, fans from both sides were preyed on by local gangs as they made their way to local transport connections, with many reporting pickpocketing, muggings and threats as the police looked on.
The televised events were a national embarrassment and are thought to have influenced parliamentary elections in June when President Emmanuel Macron lost his majority and the anti-immigration National Rally party made unprecedented gains.
‘Failure’Darmanin survived a government reshuffle in May and has since been given extra responsiblity as interior minister despite his widely disputed claims, which caused fury in Liverpool and tensions with the British government.
Authorities have also been under pressure to explain why security camera footage from the stadium was not saved, removing a potentially vital source of information for investigators as they try to piece together events.
“Should things have been managed better at the Stade de France (stadium)? The answer is yes. Am I partly responsible? The answer is yes,” Darmanin told RTL radio at the end of June in his first apology.
The head of the Paris police, Didier Lallement, is also set to face stinging criticism after he admitted in a hearing on June 9 that security operations had been a “failure”.
But the renowned hardliner defended the use of tear gas to move fans back from the stadium, saying there was “no other way”.
France is to host the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2024. The Senate report was expected to make a series of recommendations to improve coordination for major sporting events between organisers, local authorities and police.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)